Internet: Small World, Big World

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The internet has made the world an extremely big and a very small place at the same time. A big place, because there is now an incredible amount of information from anywhere on the planet available to us. We all can access it at any time, from wherever we are, as long as there is network coverage (which excludes vast areas of Canada, but if you ask me, those are too cold or too remote to live in anyways). A small place, because people we have never met have miraculously become our friends. Here is an example: by following Hollywood stars on Twitter, I learn what they had for breakfast or what they did last night on their couch at home. A well known musician, who I love, recently posted a photo that he took from his seat on the London underground. Admittedly, the picture itself was boring as hell, but just knowing that he shared this private moment with ME (okay, and thousands of other followers) made me feel very special.

Not only does the internet bring us closer to famous people, it also allows people like you and me to become celebrities ourselves – even if it’s just within the virtual realms. If you are somewhat web-savvy, you know what I’m talking about. Internet platforms like YouTube allow any Ryan, Huang, Ali or Olga to upload videos that they recorded or performed in. The majority of these videos are really just that: amateur postings of horrible quality, questionable humour and, let’s not forget about that “explicit” nature.

Of course there are exceptions, and especially YouTube has become an international, multicultural stage for talented artists who may have never made it to fame, had they waited for record studio bosses, casting directors or PR advisors to give them a chance. There is, for example, Christine Gambito, better known as Happy Slip, an American comedian originally from the Philippines. One of her hilarious videos won second place in the YouTube video awards 2006. She has continued since then to enlighten her growing audience with simple, mostly 3-minute long, video sequences that she produces with no further help than a webcam and a desktop computer. Gambito’s popularity recently led to her being appointed ambassador for Philippine tourism by the Department of Tourism

Another fascinating career is that of Straight No Chaser, an undergraduate acapella group from Indiana, that made it to riches in no time by posting a creative version of the song “12 days of Christmas” on YouTube. 10 million people watched it, among them the right one – the chief executive of Atlantic Records, who signed them to a five-album contract. Surely very few rise from dishwashers to millionaires by posting a private recording online, but the fairy tale does happen, not just in the U.S. but all around the globe. And the list grows bigger. Ryan Nigahig –a very funny comedian and currently the most popular guy in youtube; Michelle Pahn, whose tips on makeup are famous on the net, Marina Orlova, a sexy teacher, or David Choi, a popular singer and composer who promotes his music, concerts and everything he does on the net.

Even if you aren’t striving to become famous, you probably have realized how easily you can connect with your families and friends far away and allow them a glimpse into your life. My parents in Germany were able to see their grandchildren’s first steps on YouTube and watched them eat their first birthday cake via webcam (including sticky chocolate pieces thrown against the screen – what a party!)

On Facebook, I’m able to follow the adventures of my Iranian friend who is currently working in Dubai, reconnect with some old acquaintances in Australia and even play an online word game with Canadian Newcomer Magazine’s publisher. I also often chat with my friend around the corner when we are both stuck at home. Clearly, we don’t need to pick up the phone anymore or make the effort to drive out to the next café to meet up in person. Of course this leaves the question whether the internet, in the end, makes us lonelier and separates us from each other. Personally, I couldn’t disagree more. Connecting via the internet reminds me to arrange get-togethers with people who are close by, but it also helps me to stay in touch with loved ones who are impossible to see regularly. True, a video conversation on Skype isn’t the same as enjoying a nice glass of wine together – but if I can see Klaus enjoying his glass of German Riesling and he can see me sip from a Pelee Island Chardonay while we have a talk from either side of the Atlantic, I can’t see that I’m missing much. Sure, it is rather annoying when in the middle of an intense discussion the free, and therefore unreliable, chat-service breaks down (or worse, my definitely not so free internet provider decides to give up the ghost for a while). But at the same time, you can simply disconnect when you have had enough of someone and blame it on said internet provider.

Our social life has definitely changed since the arrival of the internet, and so has the way we consume media. Who needs to run around town today trying to find a newspaper from back home at some specialty newsstand when in the fraction of a second you can visit the Pakistan’s Dawn or the Times of India online? Who actually needs to pay the price of a newspaper that includes the production of paper, printing and distribution costs when most online content comes for free? (Agreed, it is nice to read a magazine while you try to relax on the subway or in the washroom, and this is exactly why you should keep subscribing to this magazine!) All the information you are looking for is right there, in this small box on your desk that fits just between your coffee cup and your box of Kleenex. Indeed, the world has become a small place with endless possibilities!

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